Caparas critics go online to protest award

MANILA, Philippines—An online petition to declare comic book writer and movie director Carlo J. Caparas “not deserving” of a National Artist award has collected 2,594 signatures as of Sunday evening.

The Internet petition titled “Carlo J. Caparas is Not Qualified to be National Artist” was posted by Gerry Alanguilan, a comic book illustrator from San Pablo City.

In his petition on, Alanguilan said: “Many of us in the artist community were shocked and appalled that Carlo J. Caparas was named National Artist for Visual Arts and Film (in) July 2009.”

“Although we recognize the work and accomplishments of Caparas within the comic book industry as well as television and film, we strongly believe his body of work does not live up to the tradition of excellence the title of National Artist entails.”

Legacy compromised

He added: “As Philippine artists and concerned citizens who feel that our artistic legacy as a nation is compromised by these events, we strongly and vehemently put forward this protest.”

Caparas produced a slew of crime movies such as “The Cecilia Masagca Story: Antipolo Massacre,” “The Untold Story: Vizconde Massacre 2,” “Lipa Arandia Massacre,” and “The Marita Gonzaga Rape-Slay: In God We Trust!”

“It is appalling to us that someone who has made a living exploiting the lowest common denominator in films … shall now be placed in the same league as Manuel Conde and Lino Brocka, the greatest filmmakers in the Philippines … ,” the petition reads.

Caparas was not the lone target of criticism among this year’s National Artists. The other was Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, who was chosen for her accomplishments in theater, but who is also head of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) which, together with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), screens and selects the National Artists.

Alvarez’s and Caparas’s nominations were rejected by the NCCA and CCP but approved by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who signs off on the final National Artists.

Other critics of Caparas include National Artists F. Sionil Jose, Virgilio Almario and Bien Lumbera. National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, singer Celeste Legazpi and actor Leo Martinez also added their objections.

Support from ex-censor

On the other hand, Caparas has received support from former censors chief Manuel Morato and Dante Jimenez, head of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC). Support also came from boxer Manny Paquiao, Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, Joe Lad Santos of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) president Dante Guevarra.

Morato said Caparas has done more to spread the national language through his comic book stories than many of his critics. His famous characters are Ang Panday, Bakekang and Totoy Bato, among others.

Caparas also received support from his community, Barangay Ugong in Pasig, and his former school teachers, who hailed him as a high achiever. Caparas worked in a glass factory and as a security guard before becoming a comics writer and movie director.